Parenthood is changing and moving toward more compassion with raising children. Having studied social evolution and various parenting practices in university before becoming a dad still didn't prepare me for the lack of support around my personal values as a father. While I experienced the indescribable elation of becoming a father, it was mixed with receiving plenty of criticism from friends family and the general community. This was not the welcome I was expecting and right from the start I realised that things were not going to be all that easy when parenting in ways that deviated from the norm.
Some 10 years later, I still find parenting with the values I hold dear to my heart to be a lonely journey as a dad. I have many close connections that have developed over the years, yet most of these are at a great distance from home. There is no-one out side of my family home within walking distance, which is a vastly different experience of my youth and into my twenties. More so over this time there is a real lacking sense of men connecting as fathers within natural parenting paradigms.
In the past ten years I have been involved in supporting other parents who choose to parent in these ways. In this time I have noticed that isolation is a huge issue for many of the parents I have connected with and supported. While this is a widespread tragic phenomena of our times, it is felt acutely by those practising parenting that is not well understood or accepted by the majority. Robin Grille wrote about his observations as a practising psychotherapist who is passionate about peaceful parenting in an article called ‘Banished! Are parents who follow their hearts left out in the cold?’.
In my own experiences and that of others I know, even within this group of 'natural' parent culture, the same lack of compassion can hit hard at personal parenting choices and values. This makes it even more difficult for parents who really value connection and expression over coercion and emotional suppression like Aware Parenting principles.
Being a father who holds these values is even more of a concern in finding support. Research in Australia for men showed that a lack of support and social life grows after their 30s. Only four in 10 were satisfied with their sense of place in community and one in three men were not satisfied with their relationships. Twenty five percent of men said they had no-one they could turn to outside the home. Support levels between the ages of 35 and 54 were significantly lower than other age groups – typical fatherhood years. Not surprisingly the statistics on men’s suicide in Australia are particularly high in middle age. This statistics follow in other westernised countries.
Together, the lack of support for parents who differ from the norm, and the concerning isolation of middle aged men, tells me there is a great need for these fathers to connect and find support with each other. I have known this for a while through my own experiences and that of others I have supported.
Natural Parenting Dads Experiences
Dads experience a lot of strain in general around love, sex, finances, work-family balance and social relationships. A number of fathers have shared with me that they notice the majority of families practising compassionate parenting are struggling with their relationships or have become a split family more than for families who parent in more common ways. Many of these fathers suggested the difficulties in having support with their parenting values contribute to relationship tensions and break ups. While I am not aware of any studies that specifically look at groups of fathers with such parenting values, it is not much of a stretch to consider that these men are at a greater risk of becoming isolated thereby affecting their health and closest relationships. Some men at times regret choosing the path of their heart, blaming it to be a major source of their struggles, I too have felt this at times.
With these concerns I initiated a facebook father’s group called Aware Dads for dads aligned with the principles of Aware Parenting and seeking connection and support. It has been a motivating force to me for becoming an Aware Parenting Instructor. I want to soon begin a tour on the east coast of Australia to open spaces for men who hold similar values at heart to gather and find support with each other – because I see a great need to connect in person, to be heard and supported to move through our struggles together as compassionate dads willing to go beyond the norm.
It is clear to me we need to talk, we need to connect find empathy that refuels our fatherly hearts that feed and nourish our families.
Write to me and stay in touch if you are interested and I'll keep you in the loop. firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm highly curious how these issues are for natural parenting fathers and would be grateful for you to participate in this short survey.
Click on this link below